Greetings! I finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth approximately a week ago. Why the delay in blogging? Because, in all honesty, I couldn’t come up with anything to say about the book. It isn’t bad, per se. . .it just doesn’t add anything new.
It’s a dystopic young adult novel, with a plucky but unprepossessing young woman as the protagonist. She introduces us to a very small world — all contained within the city limits of Chicago — in which the inhabitants are divided up into six groups, based on a predominant character trait: the Dauntless, the Erudite, the Candor, the Abnegation, and the Amity. The six group are the factionless: people who failed to make it through initiation into a faction. One of the biggest problems with the book, however, is that the societal structure just doesn’t make sense: as a first point, I want to know why all of civilization is apparently limited to Chicago. As a second point, Abnegation rules the government, with the idea that selfless people would never do anything corrupt. Which, fair point — but it also makes that faction ridiculously easy to infiltrate — so why there has never been a government coup is beyond me.
The big mystery is, of course, the factionless — people who didn’t “fit in” to the group that supposedly their predominant character trait fit. The book switches between having them be homeless, and having them work certain, blue collar jobs: cafeteria workers, janitors, etc. Why they don’t band together is inexplicable, and how a society manages to exist based entirely upon principles of academic segregation is also difficult to follow.
The protagonist doesn’t add much, either. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson work as protagonists because they’re “Everymen”: they aren’t particularly good at anything, they don’t know how most things work, and by blind luck they end up in exciting situations. They’re relateable, because, like the reader, they never know what is going on. Katniss was a great, pragmatic female protagonist — through the Hunger Games she isn’t concerned about love, or romance, or boyfriends, or overthrowing a government. . .she’s concerned with survival. Even the pathetic Bella Swan provided a great example to girls of what happens when you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. But Tris Prior. . .she has special abilities. She’s braver than anyone else in Dauntless, as selfless as anyone in Abnegation, and as smart as those in Erudite. She cares, at 16, about governmental overthrow and, rather than accidentally becoming part of a revolution, chooses to start one. She has one boyfriend, and he’s about the epitome of a YA male lead: he’s handsome, talented, slightly withdrawn due to a dark past, but completely devoted to Tris.
It’s a perfectly fine book. I would recommend it to young readers. But it does nothing to elevate the genre, nothing that will make it memorable past the movies (which have already started filming). I wish I could say that it provides some reflection of our society, or that it made me question morality, or that I admired the characterization or the imagery. But I can’t. About the best that I can say is that it was a mindless read, perfect for the midst of bar studying.
And, on that note, I should forewarn you: following my inability to concentrate for long on much of anything, the next read will probably be The Nanny Diaries. Because what could make for easier reading than socialities of the upper east side?